How to Choose a Reusable Bag for Green Travel and Shopping – 5 trillion plastic bags are produced each year and the vast majority get thrown away according to World Watch Institute.
That’s a lot of plastic.
photo credit: evelynishere
Choose a Reusable Bag for Green Travel and Shopping
Luckily, more people are switching to reusable bags. Given the unbelievable number of options when choosing a reusable bag, it’s not always easy to know which one to buy. So we’ve put together this handy guide to help you choose a reusable bag.
The first question to ask yourself when looking for a green bag is: What am I going to use my reusable bag for? Grocery shopping? Daily tote? Random shopping spree? Travel?
Unfortunately, I have yet to find the perfect bag for every occasion (if you’ve seen it, let me know) so I have several types of bags that I use depending on the circumstance.
Reusable Grocery Shopping Bags
For planned trips to the grocery store, I find that short and deep bags made out of durable material work best.
Size and Shape: The bags that are about 6-8 inches deep, 12+ inches tall, and 12+ inches wide work especially well for carrying cartons of milk, juice, and other heavy products. Look for grocery bags that have sturdy bottoms that don’t bend when heavy products are placed at the bottom.
Weight and Material: Because I don’t carry grocery bags with me on a daily basis, the weight/bulkiness of bags doesn’t matter too much. However, insulated bags are particularly handy. As are compartmentalized reusable bags with spaces for wine bottles.
Design: Frankly, if my grocery bag is ugly, it doesn’t really matter. Good thing too, because few reusable grocery bags have fun patterns on them.
What to Buy: Free reusable grocery bags tend to work just as well as any you’ll buy. (I got mine from a Discovery Channel booth at a Green Expo). Most grocery stores also sell their own brand of reusable bags.
Online you can find numerous options for reusable grocery shopping bags including this 7 set combo (insulated and wine bag too) set, this 4 set combo pack or this single decorated grocery bag. Reusable grocery bags tend to be the cheapest of all reusable bags with most bags costing under $2.
Reusable Shopping Bags and Travel Bags
Whether wandering the streets of Tokyo or browsing the aisles of a hometown boutique, you need a reusable bag tucked away for unplanned purchases.
Size and Shape: Small and compact. There is no way around this one — unlike reusable grocery shopping bags which are fine if they’re fairly bulky, a reusable shopping bag for shopping or travel needs to be very small and very compact so you can shove it away in the depths of your purse or backpack. I like bags that crumple into a small self-contained storage compartment.
Weight and Material: The lighter the better. Again, because you’re carrying this bag with you all the time, you want the lightest and thinnest material possible.
Design: Reusable shopping bags come is a wide variety of patterns and colors. Shop around and you’ll find a design you like.
What to Buy: Look for bags that tuck into themselves like the Flip and Tumble or cinch into a small pouch.
Daily Tote Bag
If transporting your lunch to work, carrying extra work home, or bringing a change of clothes for the after work work-out, daily totes are indispensable.
Size and Shape: For daily totes the size and shape of the bag is completely up to you. I prefer fairly flat bags with less depth, but figure out what you’re transporting and what you need to fit in it.
Weight and Material: For a daily tote you want a bag that’s durable and washable. We own several organic cotton bags that are sturdy enough for a stack of library books and can be thrown in the wash when the leftover curry from lunch spills.
Design: Whether hopping on the subway or sneaking into work a few minutes late people are going to notice your daily tote. Find a design that says something about you or the issues you care about.
What to Buy: Like reusable grocery shopping bags, daily totes are often giveaways. (But remember, just because something is free don’t take it if you don’t need it.) If you don’t get one for free, buy one from a cause you support — such as NPR — or get one free with a donation to a cause — like Pet Charities (through PetSmart).
Who Likes What
We asked folks on Twitter for their reusable bag recommendations and here are the answers we received:
@katonahgreen love plain bag from ecolution from organic cotton. use for shopping, and washing delicates in!
and have one from chico bag- works great, wish it were more eco-friendly material
@ghtravelblog I’ve got plenty, tops are canvas bags from TJ’s or the heavy plastic ones from Whole Foods.
@jclynes envirosax bags! They’re totes that fold and snap up to fit in ur purse. Cute designs too! Www.envirosax.com
@EKricfalusi ChicoBag! Love them. Light but strong, Roll up into compact form. Loop and carabiner for storage/carrying. www.chicobag.com
@cartmanmacduff The ones I dont have to buy, I dont mind advertizing for companies that give away their reusable shopping bags.Its fair deal
@chrisjoeytotes www.joeytotes.com but I am a little biased
@IsabellesTravel If you mean a reusable shopping bag, I like the ones from Envirosax!
Eco Bags and Green Bags: Sustainable Materials
If you’re looking for the greenest of reusable bags you’ll want to carefully consider the type of material the bag is made from. Options include bags made from recycled plastic bottles, organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and more.
But, before you immediately opt for the more sustainable material, realize that what is greenest isn’t always apparent. For example, Treehugger points out that canvas bags require a lot of energy and water to produce and have more of an impact than polyester or polypropylene.
What’s your favorite reusable bag?